Hello Bangkok

A few flights later and we landed in Bangkok. Before arriving I had mixed feelings about going to Bangkok. Whilst I’ve heard it’s an amazing city and has a lot to offer I can’t help but have this impression it’s a very seedy place.

On first impressions, it was a very modern and clean city. Our hotel was very nice and the local people were very friendly. A number of people could speak English but it wasn’t as fluent as I had expected considering so many British people fly to Thailand. Interesting experience tho!

To pass time on day one we went to explore a few key sites. First of all we went to the Grand Palace in the centre of town. The place was huge and had a lot of architecture and colour to it. It was very grand with a lot of red and gold colours being used.

After the Grand Palace, we then went to Khao San road which is a very popular place for tourists and backpackers.

When we get there the street was actually the living definition of a tourist trap. It had market stools, bars and fast food places everywhere. Everyone wanted to be your friend but just with the angle of selling you stuff. My own opinion is that this place wasn’t really for me but then we did visit it during the day and at night it’s completely different with music playing and people drinking. Unfortunately we won’t get to see it at night until after the Indochina tour.

Time to head back to the hotel to meet our new tour group!

We had a very good mixed group. 6 guys and 10 girls from varying nationalities. A few drinks will help everyone break the ice.

It’s all over… time for Indochina. Final reflections…

So here we are. On another plane but this time travelling out of India to the next tour. We only have one day between the India tour and our Indochina tour so it felt a bit like we were out of the pan and into the fire.

It’s probably worth doing some honest reflections on the India trip…

I chose India as a curve ball option. It wasn’t the highest on my bucket list but it always intrigued me as a country because it is such a big country that provides so much for the world globally. A lot of IT expertise is found in India as well as some of the best cuisines (in my opinion!). I really wanted to see Indochina and I was looking for a potential tour that was reasonably priced and it would give me a taste of what India is about.

After spending a few days in Dubai in luxury it was a huge culture shock landing at Delhi airport. I was greeted with hundreds of people, so much noise, people arguing over who would carry my bags and who would give me a lift to the hotel. There was loads of pollution, cars are all over the place on the roads, animals road the streets, every car uses their horns regularly. There is no other word to describe it than absolute chaos.

When we woke up the morning after once we went to the hotel I was feeling a bit braver and thought I’d give it a go. So we went into Delhi and explored.

When we meet our CEO that evening he said something which is absolutely true… you have to open your mind and embrace India because if you don’t you’ll hate it.

I saw so many things I never thought I’d see with my own eyes but you just have to accept it and respect that’s how it works. There is definitely something special to India though…

The people are very friendly and accommodating. The food is incredible! The beer is amazing! The culture is a huge part of everything within the country and we were lucky to experience that. I thought on day one that driving was chaos there but after a while you actually realise there’s a skill to it. There’s an underlying understanding of how to work the roads in India and I only realised after a 5 days and then it all made so much sense.

I also realised it’s a very close knit community built on respect. Everything is interlinked and there was more than one occasion when you saw this network pulling together. If you don’t open your arms and embrace it you’ll never see it. Hard to describe and put into words.

Final thoughts… it was an incredible trip that I would highly recommend to anyone – but in an organised group tour only.

You have to let go of all your preconceived ideas. If you don’t open up and embrace it you’ll hate it. The country has so much to offer its hard to explain.

I thought the Indochina trip would be my highlight but now it’s really going to have to go some way to beat India. And I never thought I’d say that when I was flying out on the 9th November.

Indochina next…

Day at the beach

Half of the group got up early to go to see the old part of Goa. After a night out I definitely wasn’t feeling it so decided to have a lie in and then go to the beach.

I’m not a massive fan of the beach but a day just chilling out sounded good to me. Our hotel taxi driver recommended a different beach to our CEO which would have less tourists. We took the advice because it wasn’t much further and we just wanted to chill. Being surrounded by loads of tourists didn’t sound appealing.

Once we got to the beach we were greeted with golden sand, a few wooden huts serving food and drink and you had waiter service to your sunbeds. I’m not an expert on beach holidays but that seemed pretty decent to me!

So we spent all afternoon here. Afterwards we got the taxi back to the hotel so we could meet the rest of the group for the final dinner before we all go our separate ways. 4 of them had to be up at 4am to leave the hotel for the airport at 4.30am so a night out drinking was not going to happen. We went back to the same restaurant again from the first night because the food was amazing and reasonably priced.

So it’s all come to an end. It’s been a fantastic tour and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Goa, the Indian Magalluf

On the taxi journey to the hotel we were stuck in a lot of traffic. The local Goa team were playing a football match versus another team from India so fans were pouring into the stadium to watch it. It took us just short of two hours to get to the hotel where it normally would take 45 minutes. Ah well, at least we arrived ok.

After freshening up we were about to head out for dinner but our CEO was leaving so we needed to say farewell. We all pulled together to provide a tip to him for everything he had done to help our group over the 15 day tour. As mentioned in many of my blog posts, the tour would not have been the same without him and so it was appropriate to show our appreciation. It felt like the trip had only just begun and people were already leaving.

We went for dinner at a really cool seafood restaurant overlooking one of the main beaches. There were fireworks going off in the background and different genres of music playing from the different bars on the beach. It was an amazing environment. It felt like a Magalluf beach resort without people being idiots. The weather was good too although probably a bit too humid.

Once we had finished dinner we went to a local bar which was playing some really good songs. The drinks started flowing and it was our final night out as a group. Half the group ended up on the dance floor and before you knew it everyone was on there. I think I left around 2am but some of the group were in the bar until 4am easily. It was a really good night out and a way to the end the trip!

Before leaving the bar to go home we said farewell to our CEO. He did a great job in making the trip enjoyable for all of us and that’s not an easy thing. The amount of effort he put in behind the scenes was incredible! Highly recommend.

Bye Poppy! And hello Goa

The night out in Mumbai was decent because all of us were there. It also started to get a bit messy when the drinks really started to flow.

I ended up doing jaegerbombs which were served in a syringe, not a cup. It was a pretty odd experience! And afterwards the waiters would shake your head immediately after you have drunk the shot.

Unfortunately, this was Poppy’s last night with the group. She was flying back to London early the next morning but to her credit she stayed out as late as everyone else. In the end I think she only got two hours sleep and was probably still drunk on the plane!

It was an awesome night out but sad to say bye to the first member of the group. Again, we were very fortunate with the people in our group!

In the morning we had to take taxis to Mumbai Airport. The airport was actually quite far away and it took around an hour to get there. Once we had checked in we needed food before flying to Goa.

Ready for the last leg of the tour! It’s exciting but a shame it’s coming to an end so soon.

High tea at the Taj Mahal Palace

The majority of the group were keen on going for high tea at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Before this moment, I actually had no idea what high tea meant but I learnt something new.

It cost 1,900 Rupees for the high tea which was essentially unlimited hot & cold food and drinks (apart from alcohol). In the U.K. currency that’s about £21. Not too bad with a view looking over Mumbai bay and the Gateway to India. Could be worse.

The food was really good and after spending a few hours here a few of us decided to go and see local sights including the Gateway of India. We wandered around for about 45 mins before we had to meet our CEO and the rest of the group for an orientation walk.

The walk was good and only short. We’d been out all day and a few of us were tired so we wanted to get onto a few drinks. We went to a bar which was famous in Mumbai for being the regularly drinking place of a person who had escaped from Australia. He had a famous book written for him called Chanterome.

It got a bit messy with drinking and I definitely spent way more than I intended. I’ll need to curb the jaegerbomb buying habits if I’m not going to bankrupt myself!

Welcome to Mumbai

When we got to the hotel the rooms weren’t ready so we had to drop our stuff and wait a few hours.

After going to get breakfast we went on a 3-4hour city tour to see the different sights. It was a decent tour but at this point I was struggling to stay awake! This is also one of the lows of travelling that sometimes you have to wait to get into your hotel room and it meant spending a whole 24 hours in the same clothes and sweating. Pretty disgusting and I get disgusting! Couldn’t wait to get checked in and showered.

The City Tour was good though… we went to see the main location of Gandhi’s movement and work in Mumbai. We saw a few temples, the old and historic railway station, the house of the richest man in India and also one of the two big slums that are in Mumbai. It’s a very varied city and I’m glad we were able to do the tour and see what the City had to offer. It’s a bit of a shame we were only there for one night because it had a lot to offer!

If I were to come back India then Mumbai would be a place to visit again. It reminded me a lot of Lima where it had tourist parts, rich areas and then other areas where most people stayed and lived.

Day of hell… public transport followed by more public transport

The bus journey was long and on a public bus. However, it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be. The only downside was that me and Katie were sat at the front and the horn for the bus was so loud that anytime it was used it would instantly wake us up. And in India they love to overuse the car horns.

When we arrived at the City where we were getting on the sleeper train we went to visit the Gandhi Ashram. This was a place built in dedication to Gandhi and was interesting. However, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be… honest opinion.

Once we had finished at the Ashram it was about 4pm. We were taken to the local Mall where we could grab food, buy a few souvenirs and freshen up before the train journey. The train was departing at 10pm so we only had a few hours to kill. After getting food we just chilled in the Arcade at the Mall to pass the time. At 8.30pm we left the Mall to head to the station and wait for the train.

I’ve only seen a sleeper train on YouTube so I’m basing my imagination on that one video. Hopefully it’s a bit better than that one.

When the train arrived it didn’t look like much from the outside but when we got inside it was actually better than I thought. Each person is given a pillow, 2 sheets and a blanket for the journey. I was on the top bunk with a few people from our group in the same section as me. A few others were in the same carriage but further down in another section.

It wasn’t the most comfy nights sleep I have ever had but it definitely wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I made it a little more uncomfortable for myself because I wanted to keep my backpack close with all my important belongings and valuables so I basically slept with that right next to me in the bed.

We arrived into Mumbai at 6.30am. I managed to get quite a bit of sleep but I think everyone felt a bit sweaty and dirty from wearing the same clothes. A shower was needed!

Final night in Udaipur

On the final night in Udaipur we decided (as a group) to go back to the restaurant from the first night, Tribute. The location was awesome and the food was equally as good so it was a no brainer.

Tomorrow we have the dreaded day… 6 hour bus ride from Udaipur followed by an overnight train departing at 10pm and arriving in Mumbai in the morning at 6.30am. It was one of those situations where you’ve just got to get on with it.

Looking forward to seeing Mumbai but definitely not looking forward to the journey.

Here it goes…

Rooftop views and then a cycle tour of Udaipur

In the morning, Marie and I decided to chill at the hotel while everyone else went to try the local street food. With a sleeper train the next day I didn’t want to take any risks with food… not after I’d made it this far without any issues.

We sat on the rooftop and just chilled for an hour or so waiting for everyone else to come back. After they got back, we were set to go on the cycling tour of Udaipur.

Not going to lie I was tired and hungover in the morning. A cycle tour sounded good when I booked it but in the morning I was not as keen for obvious reasons.

With that being said, we went on the tour and I had to hop in the back of a pickup truck because the seats were all taken. It took about 30-40 minutes to get to the cycling place and it was a pretty good trip… we left the town itself and went to the edges of Udaipur, which was much more rural.

The bikes were pretty standard push bikes and unfortunately there was no where to clip the GoPro so I had to use the chest harness. Having watched back the videos they actually come out ok!

The cycle tour was awesome. We cycled around Udaipur and saw a decent lake on the way and got some pretty good photos! There weren’t too many hills and the heat was bearable.

Half way through we stopped at another lake where the cycle tour company had setup some seats for us. We sat down and they gave us lunch at the lake which was pretty decent!

The cycle tour was also the best cure for the hangover. Glad I didn’t drop out in the end!